Farming Magazine - April, 2014

COLUMNS

Working Horses: Creating a Horse-Drawn Lifestyle

By Vicki Schmidt


It's always encouraging to see the younger generation wanting to learn and know more about draft horses on the farm.
Photos by Vicki Schmidt.

It's always encouraging to see the younger generation wanting to learn and know more about draft horses on the farm. They arrive with visions of a totally horse-powered farm. The goals usually include living off the grid, disconnected from the ubiquitous technology and frantic pace of modern life. Most also arrive with little or no money. Sometimes they have a relevant education, but often their college degree hasn't given them the skills or knowledge for their dream; unfortunately, it has left them with a college loan payment almost equal to a good mortgage. In addition, they have a car payment, insurance and a cellphone bill - all things they feel they can't live without.

Choosing to live a life working with draft horses, as opposed to just dreaming about it, takes more than an active imagination. It's actually the opposite of the dream that you desire. Note a few of the antonyms for the word dream: concrete, reality, truth, fact, actuality, certainty and existence. Taking what you see as your dream and turning it into reality not only takes a vision, it takes congruence and a plan.

On the occasional slower day, I spend a few hours refocusing my vision for the farm. New opportunities often change the direction of the farm, but not the goals. Having a mission statement for your farm is vital. When I consider or question an opportunity for the farm or the horses, I always ask myself, "How does this support the mission?" If it supports the mission, it goes onto the list of possibilities. If not, it goes onto the "probably not" list. This system has never failed me when it comes to making major decisions for the farm.

Bringing your vision to fruition is often a challenge. Guidance from financially minded friends and other organizations, combined with the following ideas, formed the framework for my farm. This is also the basis for the management practices taught to working students and interns. I do not know where the ideas below originated, or whom to credit, as they are taken from the notes of a lecture I attended decades ago.

See the vision

The vision is something you have, not something you make. See the masterpiece in the stone, and chip away what doesn't belong. What is the "seed" inside that is calling out? Identify it and let it emerge.



Choosing to live a life working with draft horses, as opposed to just dreaming about it, takes more than an active imagination.

Cultivate congruent conditions

What will it take to make the seed grow? Create the conditions to make it happen. What activities will activate the conditions? Step into the tone of those activities now. Trust that when you activate the quality, the conditions will follow. Strive to feel like you live on a horse-powered farm, own a carriage service, or log firewood with horses on a daily basis.

Structure the plan

Organize part of every day for progress toward your vision. Know where the progress is taking you and stick to your agenda. Remember, if you are not living your agenda, you're living someone else's. Generate your own personal power plant of energy. Do not wait or expect the world to validate your plans. Participate in structuring your plan versus anticipating it will just happen.

In the last 15 years of hosting working students, I've seen some of the best, many who were gifted with horses, unable to attain their dreams due to addictions that not only stole their finances, but also their health and work ethic. The overall margin of profit with any sort of agriculture is often small, and addictive substances and behaviors come with many price tags. The students who have succeeded were not only dedicated, but also took care of themselves as well as the horses. Those who know the value of wholesome foods and lots of clean, fresh water for themselves as well as their horses are most poised for success and happiness in a horse-drawn lifestyle.

Vicki Schmidt owns and operates Troika Drafts, a 100-acre working draft horse farm in western Maine. The farm features drafts and crosses for work, sport and show. Comment or question? Visit http://www.farmingforumsite.com and join in the discussions.